What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer occurs when malignant cells develop in a part of the pancreas. This may affect the normal functioning of the pancreas, including the way the exocrine or endocrine glands work.
About 70% of pancreatic cancers are located in the head of the pancreas. This can block the common bile duct, which will decrease the flow of bile and cause a build-up of bile pigment in the blood. This is known as jaundice.
Pancreatic cancer symptoms
Early stages of pancreatic cancer rarely cause symptoms. Symptoms also may be unnoticed until the cancer is large enough to affect nearby organs.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:
- indigestion and/or feeling sick (nausea)
- appetite loss
- weight loss
- pain in the upper abdomen, side or back, which may cause you to wake up at night.
Understanding pancreatic cancer
A pancreatic cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. To assist you in understanding pancreatic cancer, Cancer Council NSW has developed a comprehensive set of 13 videos for people affected by pancreatic cancer.
The video content spans the whole pancreatic cancer journey, from symptoms and diagnosis onwards.
You can view the video modules by clicking here, or order the complete DVD by calling 13 11 20.
Pancreatic cancer statistics
- About 2500 Australians are diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer each year.
- The average age of people diagnosed with this cancer is 71.
- It is the twelfth most common cancer in men and ninth most common cancer in women.
- Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PNETs) are very rare.
- Less than 100 people in Australia are diagnosed with a PNET each year.
The aim of this information is to help you understand pancreatic cancer. We cannot advise you about the best treatment for you. You need to discuss this with your doctors. However, we hope this information will answer some of your questions and help you think about the questions you would like to ask your doctors or other health carers.